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Maine's southern counties given green light to reopen

By Fran Gonzalez | Jun 15, 2020

The three southern Maine counties of Cumberland, Androscoggin and York, because of the recent stabilization of hospital visits and new cases, will be allowed to resume outdoor and indoor dining starting Wednesday, June 17, following safety protocols.

Gov. Janet Mills said Monday, June 15, at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention briefing, that in light of recent developments showing hospital visits peaked in late May, restaurants in these three counties may voluntarily open and begin serving customers following the state safety checklist.

"All restaurants have the responsibility to follow safety measures to protect the staff and their customers, because the risk is significant," she said.

Being seated in an enclosed space for an extended amount of time while eating at a restaurant presents an increased risk of exposure to COVID-19, Mills said.

June 17 will also be the date bars, breweries and tasting rooms in Cumberland, Androscoggin and York counties can open for outdoor seated service. Gyms, nail salons and tattoo parlors may also resume with added protocols.

"Those businesses, as you know, were already open in the rest of Maine's 13 counties," she said. "And we've been watching these trends and think it is safe right now to make these changes."

Retail establishments will now be allowed to have five people per 1,000 square feet of space, which represents an increase in capacity. This comes with the presumption that all staff wear face coverings and follow strict public health precautions.

It is possible that these changes may result in an uptick in cases, Mills said. If a review finds an increase in COVID-19 cases or risks of danger to the capacity of the state's health care system, "we will move to protect Maine people," Mills said, possibly reinstating some of the restrictions that have been lifted.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of Maine CDC, said one woman in her 40s from Androscoggin County has died from COVID-19. Overall, 101 individuals have died statewide because of the disease.

Since yesterday, there have been an additional 17 cases, bringing the total in the state to 2,810. Overall all there have been 317 hospitalized, with 31 currently in hospitals; 11 are in intensive care units and four are on ventilators. Health care workers account for 709 cases.

In Waldo County there have been 55 cases, with 39 recoveries, five people currently hospitalized and 14 deaths.

The outbreak reported at Durgin Pines nursing home in Kittery, Shah said, with six cases, is now closed. Also the Cianbro job site in Augusta where 29 cases were reported, is now considered a closed outbreak.

Abbott Laboratories in Scarborough has seen 23 coronavirus cases, while Nichols Manufacturing in Portland has a total of nine people who have tested positive for the virus.

Reporting on the daily, weekly and cumulative positivity rate, Shah said, "Trends show us pointing in the right direction," though more work still needs to be done. The one-day rate is now 1% - for 1,105 tests given, 11 were positive. The weekly rate is 2.99%, while the cumulative rate is 4.57%.

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